Tom Vaughn retires from NTCA Technical Committee

Vaughn served the committee as the longest-standing member, for over 30 years

Tom Vaughn, the longest standing member of the NTCA Technical Committee, serving for well over 30 years, has announced his retirement from the Committee, and attended his final Technical Committee meeting at TISE in Las Vegas this past January. 

“Tom Vaughn has been a valuable and productive member of the NTCA Technical Committee since its reactivation in 1985,” said NTCA Executive Director Emeritus Joe Tarver, a contemporary of Vaughn, who along with David Allen Company’s Bob Roberson was one of a group of about 10 individuals who worked to form the Technical Committee, which was responsible for the development of the NTCA Reference Manual.

“There is no way to evaluate his contributions not only to NTCA but to the entire industry,” Tarver continued. “Always there; first to volunteer; calmly and accurately providing information on a broad spectrum of subjects. Tom truly is a role model for what a Technical Committee member should strive for. It takes a special person to remain non-proprietary while pursuing solutions that will benefit the entire industry without regard for an individual or an individual entity. I never knew Tom to do anything other than that. Present and future members of all NTCA committees can’t go wrong by emulating the passion, commitment, dedication and concern for his proprietary concerns, NTCA and the total industry.”

NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga added, “Tom served on this committee for over 30 years, and was the longest standing active member. NTCA is sincerely in Tom’s debt.”

Some of Vaughn’s many articles and/or contributions include:

  • Latex-modified grouts
  • Cement grouting procedures
  • Inconsistent grout color
  • How to use water-cleanable epoxy grouts
  • Dealing with efflorescence
  • Considerations to reduce tile tenting
  • Exterior tiling and panelized exterior tile systems
  • Tiling over engineered wood systems
  • How to incorporate radiant heat into tile and stone installations
  • How to use self-leveling underlayment with tile and stone
  • Overview: Underlayments, trowelable and poured

Historic projects

Tom Vaughn circa 1985 as Technical Director, Building Products Division of H.B. Fuller Company.

In addition to his work on the NTCA Technical Committee, Vaughn had a pivotal role in his work as Technical Director, Building Products Division of the H.B. Fuller Company in the 1985 construction and tiling of the Baltimore Fort McHenry Tunnel, which according to Vaughn was the largest single project that the National Interstate and Defense system had built at the time. 

“With over 1.3 million sq. ft. of tile, it was also the largest project I had worked on at the time,” he said. “This project led me to being involved in coming up with a bonding system for the Holland Tunnel reconstruction in New York and the tallest panelized tile project in Seattle, Wa., called Watermark Tower. The building is 22 stories or about 276 feet high.”

Early beginnings

Vaughn got involved in the tile industry in 1973 and became a member of the Southern Tile, Terrazzo Marble Contractors Association (STTMCA – one of the previous monikers of NTCA) in about 1975. He recalled, “It wasn’t long before I met people like Joe Tarver, Paul Dinkel, Leigh Hightower, Brannon Murray, Bob Young and Virgil Smith. All of these people were interested in helping the industry grow and shared their technical expertise to all who would listen.

“Joe Tarver tried to harness as much technical power as he could to help spread the word to the tile and stone industry,” he added. “Soon, others like Butch Woelfel, Jess McIvain, Steve Young, Rich Deutsch, Bob Roberson, Harvey Powell, Gerry Zakim, as well as others joined the group.

“With a lot of work, the Technical Committee was well on its way creating and distributing information to the entire industry. Over the years, more members were added and the committee went from distributing a handful of documents to nearly 300 pages of information today. I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of this group for so many years. I continue to be amazed at how the tile industry has changed, but I’m so impressed with the technical expertise the committee currently processes.”

Vaughn also served on the NTCA Board of Directors as an Affiliate Distributor member in the early ’90s, representing Minnesota Tile Supply. Both NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga and Assistant Executive Director Jim Olson worked for him there in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. “I believe Tom was instrumental in helping me to become Executive Director at NTCA,” Bettiga added.

He called his involvement with NTCA back in the ’70s “one of the most rewarding decisions I made in my career. Not only did I learn a great deal over the year, I met many lifelong friends along the way.

“I’m glad to have been able to participate in the Technical Committee and watch the ceramic and stone industry grow immensely,” he said. “In the beginning, the industry was much simpler and one could have a pretty good understanding of nearly all the products and installation procedures. In fact, the tile Handbook only had about 16 pages of details.

“I’m grateful to those that helped me learn about our great industry and hope I was able to help others improve their understanding of installation methods and practices,” he said. “Looking back, I’m totally amazed at how many documents and papers have come from the group. The hours spent both in meetings and on our own time have help shaped the direction of how tile is being installed. With the number of really talented members the committee currently has, I’m confident the committee will continue to make significant contributions in the months and years ahead.”

The NTCA Technical Committee bids a fond farewell to Tom Vaughn in Las Vegas after its final meeting.

Coverings ’19 wrap up

Team reps Jason McDaniel (l.) and Brad Denny go head to head during the “Survey Says” game show in the Contractor Lounge.

Coverings ’19 – the 30th anniversary of the Global Tile & Stone Experience – was an astounding success this year for the industry, as well as for NTCA. The association was on the scene this year with new logistics: the Installation & Design Experience booth housed the IDE Lounge (always a hub of activity, networking, education, refreshments, and this year a “Survey Says” game show that was a smashing success), and three completed vignettes that demonstrated the synergy between local designers and qualified labor in the form of NTCA Five-Star Contractors working with tile and setting materials donated by sponsors.

(L to R.) NTCA’s Robb Roderick, Mark Heinlein and Randy Fleming, with an assist from NTCA Member Joseph Mattice of On The Level in Simpsonville, S.C .at just one of the many live demos at the show.

The booth also was a home base for CTEF and IMI, and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), which provided an area that explains the tests that are commonly conducted within its highly respected Product Performance Testing Laboratory – showing how vital this information can be for product suitability and performance. 

Contractors flocked to the booth, and NTCA signed up 27 members at the show. NTCA also offered a full schedule of presentation on the Live Installation Demonstration Stage.

As the show unfolded with over 1,100 exhibitors and over nine miles of exhibit space, we posted on the National Tile Contractors Association and TileLetter Facebook pages as well as, so check there for details. But here are a few of the highlights of the show to give you a flavor of the event.

A traditional second line parade heralded the announcement that Coverings ’20 will be held in New Orleans next year, April 20-23.

Next year, the event will take place April 20-23 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La., so stay tuned for upcoming information!

Charity initiatives shine: Teams of volunteers from Coverings, NTCA, the press, MAPEI and Florida Tile assembled 1,600 hygiene kits to be distributed by Clean the World to area veterans in need. In addition, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and 21 of its members supported the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando through a whimsical and wonderful display of one-of -a-kind doghouses, accented by visits from adoptable pooches during the show. 

Volunteers from NTCA, Florida Tile and MAPEI assembled 1,600 hygiene kits in the Clean the World charity initiative.

Twenty-one TCNA members created one-of-a-kind doghouses on forms donated by wedi to support the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.

NTCA members win CID Awards: Recognizing superior work in tile and stone, three CID Awards honored NTCA members. Pennacchio Tile, Inc. won the Commercial Stone Installation prize for Concord Plaza in Concord, Calif.; David Allen Company took home the Commercial Tile Installation for the Columbia Hotel in Washington, D.C., and Hawthorne Tile won the Installation Grand Prize for the Hinkley Project in Portland, Ore. 

NTCA Member Pennacchio Tile, Inc., Concord Plaza

David Allen Company, Columbia Hotel

Hawthorne Tile, the Hinkley Project

A trio of vignettes reflect design/installation synergy: Three stellar vignettes on display at the Installation & Design Experience were designed by locally based designers and architects working with NTCA Five-Star Contractors: designer Reginald Dunlap Interior Design and Welch Tile & Marble, using ESTIMA Ceramica products; Interstruct, Inc. and installer C.C. Owen Tile Company, Inc., using Crossville, Inc. products; and HHCP design and installer Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc., using Ceramics of Italy products. NTCA Five-Star Contractor John Cox of Cox Tile served as the project manager.

The Hidden Oasis vignette, designed by Glenda Wright of HHCP and installed by Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co. Inc.

Above Orange vignette designed by Maria Valbuena of Interstruct, Inc., and installed by C.C. Owen Tile Company, Inc.

Hotel Lobby vignette, designed by Reginald Dunlap Interior Design, and installed by Welch Tile & Marble.

NTCA members celebrated at Coverings Rock Stars Awards: NTCA members Paige Pomerene, P2 Customs; David Mastrangelo, The Tile Studio, Inc.; and Jacob Harris of Coastal Custom Tile & Design, LLC, were honored among the 12 winners named the best and brightest young talent in the tile and stone industry. 

NTCA members Paige Pomerene, Jacob Harris (far left) and David Mastrangelo (third from right) were among the 12 Coverings Rock Stars honored with a special luncheon at the show.

Schluter’s Dale Kempster was named NTCA 2019 Tile Person of the Year, the first Canadian to be honored with the award.

NTCA 2019 Tile Person of the Year: NTCA named Dale Kempster of Schluter Systems its 2019 Tile Person of the Year. This award recognizes a NTCA contractor, distributor or manufacturer member who has demonstrated a strong commitment to the tile industry and has supported the mission and goals of the NTCA. Kempster has served as a member of the NTCA Technical Committee for many years, has participated in two groundbreaking international labor summits, and was instrumental in the development of a Canadian version of the NTCA Reference Manual. He is also the first Canadian to be honored with award.

Joe A. Tarver Award – Tom Ade: Tom Ade, owner of Filling Marble and Tile in Egg Harbor City, N.J., was honored with this prestigious award that recognizes those who provide exemplary service to the industry. Ade is a long-time member of the NTCA, a former NTCA Regional Director and board member, and recipient of both NTCA’s Ring of Honor and Tile Person of the Year Awards. He also made the NTCA Tom Ade Ceramic Tile Scholarship program possible by bestowing a generous donation to the association earmarked to support children and grandchildren of NTCA members who wish to continue their education. Over the past four years, the program has given students over $150,000 in scholarship funds. 

Tom Ade (l.) receives the Joe A. Tarver Award from NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga at the NTCA Awards Night.

Tom Ade Ceramic Tile Scholarship Recipients Tara Wadford and Riley Sullivan

Tom Ade Ceramic Tile Scholarship Recipients: Since 2016, and due to a generous donation by 2019 Joe A. Tarver Award winner Tom Ade, NTCA has bestowed $5,000 scholarships on children and grandchildren of NTCA contractor members seeking higher education to pursue life goals. As part of the award, scholarship winners received an expense-paid trip to the trade show. This year, three winners were chosen out of 53 applicants. The winners were: 

Riley Sullivan, son of Dirk Sullivan and wife Gwen of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Hawthorne Tile in Portland, Oregon. Sullivan is an international baccalaureate diploma candidate. He plans to use his scholarship to further his studies, specifically focusing on ecosystem protection.

Tom Ade Ceramic Tile Scholarship Recipient Tyler Kleinsasser.

Tyler Kleinsasser, son of Roger Kleinsasser, owner of Tile Creations in Rapid City, S.D. After Kleinsasser graduates with a degree in Civil Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, he will be pursuing a Master’s degree in Construction Engineering and Management. 

Tara Wadford, daughter of Nyle and Teresa Wadford of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Neuse Tile Service in Youngsville, N.C. Wadford plans to enroll at Liberty University, majoring in nursing and minoring in Spanish, and aspires to become a physician’s assistant.

NTCA also awarded 10 other applicants $1,000 each. The additional scholarships were made possible through a sponsorship from LATICRETE International.

Northern California Tile and Stone Corp. won for Commercial Project of the Year during the NTCA Five-Star Project of the Year Awards. Seven other NTCA Five-Star contractors were honored for their outstanding achievements. NTCA Five-Star Program Director Amber Fox (l.) and Daltile’s John Cousins (far right) handed out the awards

NTCA Five-Star Contractor 2019 Project of the Year winners: This award recognizes NTCA Five-Star Contractor members for installation excellence in residential and commercial projects that include ceramic tile, natural stone, mosaics and/or glass tile. For the first time in the awards’ seven-year history, social media was used as part of judging criteria reflected in the “People’s Choice Award.” Five-Star Program Director Amber Fox said the People’s Choice Award wasn’t the only change this year. “This award is an opportunity to showcase craftsmanship, therefore we changed the judging criteria to increase the value of technical merit compared to last year.” Judges were Richard P. Goldberg, architect and president of PROCON Consulting Architects and tile industry consultant; Kent Klaser of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Inc., and David M. Gobis, Ceramic Tile Industry Consultant, LLC. Awards were sponsored by Daltile. 

The NTCA Five-Star Contractor 2019 Project of the Year recipients are: 

  • People’s Choice: Grazzini Brothers for the Milwaukee Bucks New Arena Fiserv Forum
  • Residential Achievement of Excellence Award: Boatman and Magnani, Inc., for Modern Mid-Atlantic Oceanfront Residence
  • Residential Project of the Year: Hawthorne Tile for “His & Hers” Bathroom
  • Commercial Achievement of Excellence: Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile Co., for Phoenician Women’s Spa
  • Commercial Achievement of Excellence Award: David Allen Company for the Columbia Hotel
  • Commercial Project of the Year: Northern California Tile and Stone Corp. for the Cache Creek Casino Resort Spa
  • Commercial Elite Achievement of Excellence: Rheinschmidt Tile & Marble for Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall
  • Commercial Elite Project of the Year: Superior Tile & Stone for the Palms Sky Villas in Las Vegas

NTCA Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year Award announced: This award, brand new for 2019, will honor a tile setter’s career, as well as artistry, technical soundness of installs and ability to correct problems. Open to NTCA member contractors and employees who have a 15-year minimum of setting tile, tile setters must be nominated by peers or those within the industry. The winner will be announced at Total Solutions Plus this fall in Nashville, Tenn. Deadline for nominations is June 28 – visit for details. 

CTDA Supplier of the Year: In a repeat performance from Coverings 18, The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association again recognized Crossville, Inc. as its Supplier of the Year. The award, which is voted on by CTDA’s members, recognizes domestic and international supplier(s) who provide the most value to its distributor members and the ceramic tile and stone industry. This is Crossville’s third time to receive the award.

Confindustria Ceramica North American Distributor Award: Confindustria Ceramica chose Montreal’s Ciot as its North American Distributor of the Year recipient. The award celebrates the close connection between Italian tile manufacturers and their valued North American partners. 

Large sizes reign at Coverings ’19

Technology enhances surfaces, realism

Though any good tile exhibition will present a range of product from the tiniest mosaic to sprawling slabs, Coverings ’19 was rife with products that ran 12 x 24 and larger. The new “standard” popular size is now 12 x 24 in fact, but we’re seeing a range of 24 x 48, 28 x 48 and larger formats coming into vogue. 

Digital printing techniques get more and more sophisticated, with “sinking ink” applications that allow the decoration to penetrate into crevices, veining, nooks and crannies, producing an even more authentic appearance. 

Following is a range of products that celebrate the new large sizes, slab product or setting materials that are necessary to create an installation as beautiful and durable as the products themselves. 

Cotto D’Este’s Kerlite Wonderwall

Cotto D’Este – The company’s 3.5mm Kerlite Wonderwall line offers digitally printed graphics on rectified porcelain that measures 39 x 39 up to 30 x 118 slabs. A range of graphics from flowers to forests to jungles (pictured) to gentle geometric designs and more are available. 

Milestone’s Onyx

Milestone’s Onyx comes in matte and polish in five colors and 12 x 24, 24 x 24 and 24 x 48 rectified color body porcelain. The High Definition Graphic imparts a sense of depth that is rare in matte products. With 40% recycled content, this Italian tile is made in the USA in Clarksville, Tenn. 

Vitromex’s Barque

Vitromex – Made of Vitromex’s red-body CeraCore+ ceramic body in a new 7 x 40 plank format, Barque gets its inspiration from the rough, weathered wooden planks of a ship (“barque” in Spanish). In Chestnut Brown and Ember Grey (pictured), the planks have a range of variation within the box for a highly natural effect. 

Vives Resort

Vives – The Resort collection features a wide range of nominal designs and patterns and sizes. The Nikoi series comes in nominal 48 x 48 and 8 x 48 rectified formats.

257 Titanium

LATICRETE – 257 Titanium is the ultimate, lightweight one-step, polymer fortified, thin-set mortar that is ideal for the installation of gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs (GPTP) as well as for interior and exterior installation of ceramic tile, porcelain tile, stone, quarry tile, pavers and brick. Plus, it is free from silica sand. 

Ariana Epoque

Ariana – Epoque in the Ariana brand offers stunning effects in six marble varieties and five sizes including 12 x 24, 24 x 24 and 24 x 48. All sizes come in natural finish and the two largest sizes also are available in lappato/honed. 

Marazzi Merona

Marazzi’s Merona features a new 8 x 40 plank format in four colors with Stepwise anti-slip technology. It’s shown with Basalto on the fireplace surround, which comes in large sizes up to 24 x 48. 

Rubi Slim Tile Cutting System

Rubi Tools – Manufactured in Barcelona, Spain, the Rubi Slim System offers a scoring rail, sturdy table and nippers for work with large-format tile and gauged porcelain tiles. It’s designed specially for porcelain tiles on the market of up to 9.84 ft by 3.94 ft and between about 1/8” and 3/8” thick.

The set consists of: three 43.30” aluminium guides, one scoring wheel with a Ø 7/8” tungsten carbide roller guide, two breaking pliers, two suction pads and a reinforced nylon carrying case.

American Olean Ideology

American Olean – Ideology, a new stone look-alike porcelain, comes in 24 x 48, 24 x 24, the ever-popular 12 x 24, 4 x 12 planks, herringbone accent and 24 x 24 black and white polished decorative accent. Shown is Carrera marble; it also comes in vein-cut Calacatta and Lasa.

Miracle Sealants’ Levolution

Miracle Sealants – Recently purchased by Rustoleum, Miracle Sealants’ Levolution lippage control system has a reusable cap that applies pressure to all four tiles that meet at a corner. The adaptable profile can be broken off and customized to the needs of the installer. 

Onice Malaga

Iris A stunning example of the power of large slabs was the Iris booth that featured 120 cm x 60 cm (nominal 48 x 24) Onice Malaga gauged porcelain tile panels in a mesmerizing display of cuts and angles. 

Leonardo Overcome

Leonardo – Overcome is a new 48 x 48 terrazzo-look full-body porcelain. It features a digital dry decorating technique. Available in 24 x 48, 24 x 24 and 12 x 24. 

Inalco Senda

Inalco – Senda, in the SLIMMKER line, features grey brushstrokes of color on a gentle stone-like relief texture porcelain tile. Delicate, versatile and with a magnetic appeal in 6mm thickness, sizes range from nominal 40 x 40, 40 x 99, 60 x 60 and 60 x 118.

Florida Tile Modtique

Florida Tile – Modtique
HDP color body rectified porcelain floor and wall tile comes in three colors in 8 x 48 planks and 12 x 24, 24, x 24 and 24 x 48 formats. This U.S.-made tile is inspired by European Antique stones in modern colors. 

Crossville Alaska

Crossville – Large-format Alaska has a matte terrazzo look with a shimmering fleck that adds interest and depth. The line has five versatile colors ranging from light to dark in 24 x 48, 24 x 24, and 12 x 24 field formats, with two mosaic options, bullnose and cove base trims. Alaska will be released later this year.

American Wonder Porcelain Avaro

American Wonder Porcelain – U.S- made Avaro porcelain planks come in 6 x 48 and 8 x 48 lengths in Dove Grey, Natural Beige and Dark Timber. The factory also offers Asher porcelain in matte and lappato in 8 x 48, 12 x 28, 12 x 24, and 24 x 48. Asher has Traction Enhance Technology which actually increases the DCOF when water is applied.

Avalon Flooring: flagship store grows to 15 locations in 60 years

Expansive offerings and emphasis on training contribute to success

Avalon Flooring ( was started by John Millar in 1958 with a single store in Avalon, NJ. It has since grown to 15 stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with 330+ employees. In 2018, Avalon Flooring became 100% ESOP (employee stock ownership plan). As an employee-owned company, with its corporate office located in Cherry Hill, N.J., it prides itself in providing professional service and an exceptional range of quality products for each of its customers.

Original store opened by John Millar in Avalon, N.J.

The original store opened by John Millar in Avalon, N.J.

Avalon Flooring services the retail, contractor, builder and commercial segments in both new construction and renovation projects. It offers a variety of flooring and window treatment options and installs all the products it sells. 

Robert Showers

Robert Showers,
Avalon Flooring

Avalon Flooring has been a member of NTCA for 14 years. “At Avalon Flooring, making sure our tile installations are done the correct way the first time is extremely important to us,” said Robert Showers, Director of Estimator Sales at Avalon’s Cherry Hill location, and a NTCA Regional Director.

Inside Avalon Flooring’s corporate offices.

Inside Avalon Flooring’s corporate offices.

“To help guarantee a successful process, we take the time to educate our subcontractors to better their installation performances to ensure positive customer satisfaction.” Avalon has been a huge supporter of the NTCA education program, often serving as host for the regional workshops and training programs and Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exams.

“Being a NTCA member helps our contractor sales teams provide helpful and proper installation information to their clients by citing the NTCA Reference Manual, which is a very beneficial tool,” Showers added. “It also opened up the opportunity to learn more about the CTEF certification program, and we were fortunate enough to have hosted a certification this past December.” 

Avalon Flooring corporate office

Avalon Flooring’s Cherry Hills corporate office today.

Currently Avalon has eight CTI subcontractors that handle part of the ceramic installations for Avalon Flooring. “We also just hosted a certification on December 1st, at our Cherry Hill location, where 11 out of our 13 participants passed and became certified CTI contractors!” Showers said. 

“Our goal at Avalon is to keep working on the growth of our expert installers, as well as creating the awareness of the fact that tile installation is a very skilled trade that’s more than worthy of being considered a full-time career.”

The company’s employee cantina.

The company’s employee cantina.

Avalon Flooring also takes pride in maintaining an active role in the communities where its customers and employees live, donating both time and money to charities and non-profit organizations in order to give back to the community and raise awareness for important causes. It’s also a good steward of the planet, taking seriously the responsibility to care for the environment, so it constantly strives to preserve natural resources and reduce its environmental impact. The company features high-quality, green flooring options in its showrooms and operates its own recycling program that successfully diverts approximately two million pounds of used carpet and pad per year from landfills throughout the region.

What keeps the company going, Showers said, is “The sense of accomplishment when you step back, and realize you are part of a great company that started with one man’s dream that now employs over 300 people.”

Avalon Flooring is 100% employee-owned, with more than 330 employees.

Avalon Flooring is 100% employee-owned, with more than 330 employees.

Perception vs. reality – the truth behind PBM flooring claims


ORLANDO, Fla. — At the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) Coverings press conference, held here last week, TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan shared information about current research into flooring made from plastic-based material (PBM). This included luxury vinyl tile (LVT), wood polymer composition (WMPC) flooring, stone polymer composite (SPC) flooring, clay polymer composite (CPC) flooring, and rigid core board (RCB) – the common denominator being plastic composition.

The study compared some of the popular beliefs about PBM flooring with the reality, as revealed in lab testing done in Clemson, S.C. The top beliefs of consumers about PBM flooring, derived from preliminary results from independent market research, include:

  • Belief of scratch resistance
  • Belief of wet area usage
  • Belief of durability, in general
  • Assumption of competitive pricing
  • Assumption of health and safety
  • Assumption of comparability to ceramic tile

As testing revealed, the perception and reality differ. Though many PBM floors claim to be “worry-proof,” “scratch-proof”, “life-proof” and “pet-proof” among other claims, virtually all warranties exclude scratching, indentation and pet damages, including, in some warranties, “loss of gloss/scratching,” “…damage caused by vacuum cleaner beater bar, indentation or damaged caused by spiked heeled shoes, improper rolling loads, caster wheels, chairs or other furniture without proper floor protectors and cuts from sharp objects,” and “scratches, indentation or reduction in gloss level is not considered wear.” In addition, manufacturers recommend the use of furniture pads, which are not depicted in advertising.

A predominant belief about PBM floors is that they are waterproof, and in fact are often advertised as such and encouraged for use in bathrooms, wet areas, and to combat spills and leaks. The study found, however, that warranties routinely exclude all water damage resulting from water passing through and around floor covering to the subfloor and other structural elements of the building.  The testing showed that, according to two international standardized tests for waterproofing, all the samples tested leaked through the seams to the subfloor below. What is ACTUALLY being warranted is that the plastic floor itself is unaffected by water. It does not take into consideration leaking through seams and damage to subfloors.

In addition, the study found that  90% of PBM floors tested supported the growth of mold, due to water leakage through seams into the subfloor, and the organic materials in the plastic provided nourishment for mold spores to grow. Mold spores in the seams can also be pushed into the breathable space which can contribute to respiratory and allergic effects.

PBM flooring is also believed to be slip resistant, though there is no standard for slip resistance testing in LVT flooring used by the resilient industry on wet surfaces. Using the ANSI standard A326.3 with a reference value of .42 DCOF, 16 samples – 82% — measured below .42 DCOF in all or some directions. Finally, the study tested hardness of plastic flooring relative to ceramic tile and other substances. PBM flooring rated #3 on the Mohs scale, just above talc and gypsum and equivalent to calcite, which is scrapeable with a copper coin. Ceramic tile, on the other hand, rates #7-#8, equivalent to quartz – which scratches window glass – and topaz, which scratches quartz.

Testing results shine a light on the differences between actual performance, advertised claims, and warranty exclusions by the PBM flooring industry.  For more information, contact TCNA at 864-646-8453.




Oregon installer fine-tunes his skills with certification


Brian Stephens, owner of Brian Stephens Tile, Inc.

Brian Stephens, owner of Brian Stephens Tile, Inc., in Bend, Ore., has been in the trade since 1993. Ten years after starting his own business in 2008, he decided to up his game by testing his skills with the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam. 

Stephens was intrigued by the exam after seeing so many mentions of it on social media groups, and by personal endorsements by existing CTIs. “When I met Jason McDaniel at the Wounded Warrior build, he personally talked to me about it and he continued to remind me about it!” Stephens said. “I convinced myself then that I should go for it. I wanted to prove to myself I still had what it takes to pass. I have already started talking to my employee about it and when he is ready he will take it.”

Stackstone fireplace

Stephens took the exam at the ARDEX facility in Stockton, Calif., on July 27, 2018. It was offered after a tile class Stephens had signed up to attend. “I loaded my tools including my old trusty Target saw (good luck charm) and drove eight hours south,” he said. 

Stephens didn’t leave his results to chance – he prepared well for it by reading the manual over and over and watching Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Training Director Scott Carothers’ video. “That video was very informative for me,” he said. “It reassured me that I had the right game plan going into the test. Everyone should watch that video.”

Stephens felt the exam was very fair. “The book part and online test went pretty smoothly; a lot was common sense to me,” he said. The hands-on part was more challenging. “It looks easy, but the pressure can get to you before and during the test. I care so much about what I do that I worried about time, making mistakes and about the overall quality of my install. I had adrenaline and anxiety all at once and in the end, it made me mentally and physically exhausted.” 

European wet room with classic black and white mosaics

All the effort was worth it. He passed, as CTI #1486, and “hopes it will separate my company even more from some of the other tile contractors in my area,” he said. “It will show my dedication and continued passion for the trade.”

Stephens also learned that he still has the passion and the skills to be a competent installer.

“I learned that I’m now part of a bigger picture in this industry,” he added. “It makes you realize that no matter how good you are or where you are in your career, continuing education is important and necessary to stay on top of your game.”

In fact, he is convinced that certification is important for our industry. “Most installers I know have been taught mostly proper ways, but also included are some not so proper methods and installation techniques,” he said. “Certification is a way to fine tune your skills. continuing education in general helps with the constant changes in our industry. Tile work is more specific than it’s ever been, with so many different new tiles and setting materials.”

Wood-look porcelain and pebble scribe create a stunning shower

Stephens would be interested in the Advanced Certification for Tile Installer (ACT) exams as well when they are offered locally to his area. He encourages others to go for certification. 

“Whether you think it can help you in business or not, do it for yourself,” he said. “Do it for your own confidence. There are no negatives to taking the test; we push ourselves physically and mentally all the time, and this test is no different.”

Individually hand-made fish scale tiles

BEING a tile setter and encouraging others to enter the trade is a patriotic act

“Patriotism for me is when people put their ideas into the work. Your love for your country is only in your work.” – Sudhir Mishra

I don’t usually get on my soapbox about patriotism (unless you are a follower of mine on my personal Facebook account), but I am going to take this opportunity to tell you that BEING a tile setter and encouraging others to enter the trade is a patriotic act.

Why is that, you may ask? Because in this world of outsourcing, sending jobs overseas, prefab construction, pre-packaged food, and automation, there is a decreasing pool of employment opportunities that can’t be done by someone else, located somewhere else, likely earning a fraction of what the job is worth in U.S. dollars. Hands-on trades are some of the last bastions of craftworkers who need to be PRESENT, on the job, in person, with eyes, minds, and hands engaged with creating a beautiful, long-lasting, well-performing installation of ceramic or natural stone tile.

When you engage in your profession as a tile contractor, you are literally building the country, and contributing to the physical real estate of your region. You are interacting with real humans, face to face, not just online in email or social media. You represent a skill, a company, a profession – all of which are things to be proud of. Your job cannot be outsourced. There’s no way a machine can come in and assess the need for a flat, level floor, notice bond breakers that need to be removed on a substrate, select the right mortar and grout for the job and then install all the parts and pieces with artistry and excellence. Of course, you use machinery and tools on the jobsite, but they take your expertise and prowess to wield positive results.

Are you interested in helping the country grow? Then talk to younger generations about your trade. Share what knocks your socks off about it with them – what excites you, inspires you, what makes you stand back from your work with a sense of pride and satisfaction – as well as how it helps you put food on your table and attain a good living. Talk to your children, and their friends, or classes in local high schools or those in your faith community – ignite in them the excitement that in many cases, they can earn while they learn and have a skill that can never be taken from them. And they are NEEDED! One of the largest barriers to construction – of literally building the country – is the fact that there aren’t enough skilled craftspeople to do the work! You’re doing your part AS a tile setter – try to encourage or recruit at least three more installers into the field: one to replace you when you retire and two more to expand the trade. Bring interested youth to a NTCA workshop or other educational opportunity, and give them the chance to let the light go on as they start pondering the possibilities the trade offers (without incurring the crushing debt that college often does). 

If you value being heard, get involved in the industry, specifically NTCA, which is known as “The Voice of the Contractor.” Through NTCA, members are engaging with manufacturers and distributors as well as A&D professionals and general contractors to help elevate the profession, find solutions to on-the-job problems, refine setting materials and tools to make jobs easier and better performing, and share their knowledge so that sound specs are written from the get-go. You will have an impact; you will be actively working to make things better, not just in your trade but as a ripple effect to the country at large! Be proud of what you do and how you contribute to the wellbeing and strength of the nation! You are a patriot!

God bless,
[email protected]

NTCA contractors contribute to R.I.S.E. program home

NTCA and members of the tile industry have been strong supporters of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program, which builds specially-adapted smart homes tailored to the needs of wounded veterans across the nation.

NTCA contractors John Mourelatos (l.) and James Woelfel at the home dedication.

NTCA contractors John Mourelatos (l.) and James Woelfel at the home dedication.

Recently, a 3,300 sq. ft. smart home was constructed in Tucson, Ariz., for United States Army Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Caleb Brewer and his family. Two Arizona-based NTCA contractor members – Mourelatos Tile Pro from Tucson (also a NTCA State Ambassador) and Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile, a NTCA Five-Star Contractor from Mesa — donated tile installation services, with materials for the project donated by Arizona Tile, and setting materials by MAPEI.


United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) , with wife Ashley and daughters Evelyn and Emily at the groundbreaking.

United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) , with wife Ashley and daughters Evelyn and Emily at the groundbreaking.

Sgt. Caleb Brewer

United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) joined the armed forces while in high school and served as an Intelligence Analyst in the Army Reserves and a Green Beret. On December 4, 2016 (his 31st birthday), while deployed to Afghanistan, an explosion at a Taliban improvised explosive device (IED) factory resulted in Caleb losing both legs and sustaining other serious injuries. Yet just three months later, Caleb learned to walk on a single prosthetic leg and went on to relearn surfing, shooting, running, and rock climbing with his new prosthetic legs. He’s even completed events such as the Army 10 Miler run and the Bataan Memorial Death March.

Caleb and his wife Ashley live with their two daughters, Evelyn and Emily, in Tucson, where he is currently taking care of his two daughters full time at home. The 100% mortgage-free, specially-adapted smart home provided by the Gary Sinise Foundation will greatly increase his ability to perform necessary daily functions with ease.


A customized home for a wounded veteran

The Gary Sinise Foundation worked with Caleb to determine what challenges and obstacles he faced in his previous home, and custom designed a new home so that Caleb could function as independently as possible.

In the kitchen, a French door oven was placed at an accessible height so Caleb could roll up, open the doors, and use the oven as anyone else would; ditto the microwave.  The kitchen design included roll-under areas below the sink and cooktop and custom pull-down shelving in the cabinetry to give Caleb complete access to everything in the kitchen.

The master bath shower design was customized so Caleb could pull his wheelchair up and transfer onto a bench with accessible controls and a hand-held shower faucet.  Mourelatos Tile Pro constructed a large masonry bench in the shower and installed Sun Touch wire heating system, purchased from Emser Tile, to heat the top surface of the bench.

Caleb in the shower installed by NTCA member Mourelatos Tile Pro of Tucson.

Caleb in the shower installed by NTCA member Mourelatos Tile Pro of Tucson.

“We worked closely with him on the finished height of the bench so that he can transfer to the bench from his wheelchair,” Mourelatos said. “We installed his shampoo niche lower above the bench and his wife’s shampoo niche higher up on the opposite wall.” Plenty of space allowed Caleb to maneuver in his wheelchair in the bathroom, including a roll-under area below his sink.

A home gym and workshop areas were also incorporated into the design of the home for Caleb, so he could maintain a healthy lifestyle and work with others with disabilities in the community who are looking for innovative ways to stay in shape.  A workshop area was also incorporated into the design of the home so he had a dedicated area to pursue this hobby and passion.

A home automation package allows Caleb to control various functions of the home from an iPad or phone, such as: video surveillance, automated blinds/shades, security system, automatic door locks, climate control, audio, and video.


Tailoring tile for transitions

In addition to normal considerations such as wider hallways, doorways, zero clearance thresholds, and oversized rooms in general, it was key to make sure transitions between hardwood and tile were smooth. The durability and timelessness of the tile in the entries and bathrooms were important considerations in the home.  And this is where our NTCA contractors came in.

It was important that transitions - like this one in the the master bathroom -- were smooth between different floor coverings.

It was important that transitions – like this one in the the master bathroom — were smooth between different floor coverings.

Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director, contacted John Mourelatos of Mourelatos Tile Pro and the Gary Sinise Foundation contacted James Woelfel of Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile to determine if they were both interested in the project. After an enthusiastic affirmation, builder Hayes Construction began working with Mourelatos and Woelfel on an estimate.

The contractors studied the plans and decided among themselves what areas of the home they would tackle: Mourelatos would install tile in the master bathroom, which included floor and shower;

Artcraft would take the kitchen, the laundry, Caleb’s training area restroom and his children’s bathroom. The builder, both contractors and Caleb met with Scott Kuzma at Arizona Tile to select the tile material; later on Mourelatos met with the Brewers to select grout colors for all the tiled areas.

John Mourelatos, being local in Tucson, helped out with planning and coordinating of material and selection to minimize the need for Woelfel to drive up from Mesa, and the companies communicated about details via phone and email. “I kept James updated about the progress of the build and sent him pictures along the way prior to our start date,” Mourelatos said. “Ed Siebern worked in the master bathroom while the three installers from Artcraft worked in the guest bath and kitchen.”   Siebern, a Certified Tile Installer, was at the job full time to complete prep work and tile installation.

The Mourelatos Tile Pro crew includes (L. to r.): Certified Tile Installer Ed Siebern, John Mourelatos, Caleb and Ashley Brewer and installer Cody Elmer.

The Mourelatos Tile Pro crew includes (L. to r.): Certified Tile Installer Ed Siebern, John Mourelatos, Caleb and Ashley Brewer and installer Cody Elmer.

Eager to serve

Both contractors were eager to donate their time on this project as a debt of gratitude.

“We as a nation cannot do enough for our veterans, especially our wounded heroes,” said Woelfel, who added that he was gratified by “the look on [Caleb’s] and his family’s face when they saw the finished product.”

James Woelfel, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Co., Mesa, Ariz., speaking at the home dedication

James Woelfel, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Co., Mesa, Ariz., speaking at the home dedication

Mourelatos said over the years, he’d watched the work done on the R.I.S.E. program homes; so when he discovered one was being built “less than five miles from my house, I became excited about the opportunity,” he said.

“After meeting the Brewers, and learning about their story of service, family, and faith, I knew this was a project I wanted to be a part of,” Mourelatos continued. “We have donated our time for tile installation in the past (Extreme Makeover House here in Tucson), but this project meant so much more. My installer [Ed Siebern] has a son that is in a wheelchair, born with Cerebral Palsy, and he was very passionate about being involved in this installation. This was an opportunity to do something for a family that has given so much, and continues to give back to the community.”


Donated products include:

Arizona Tile

  • 12” x 24” Cemento Cassero Grigio Porcelain Tile
  • 3” x 12” Bullnose tile
  • 12” x 12” Flat Pebble Cool Blend Stone Mosaic
  • 16” x 24” Regis Porcelain Tile
  • 12” x 24” WF Jog Porcelain Tile
  • 1”x 4” Shimmer Abalone Glass Tile
  • 8”x 8” Marrakesh Grey Matte Porcelain Tile



  • Aquadefense waterproofing membrane
  • LFT Mortar
  • Flexcolor CQ grout
  • Mapesil T silicone
  • Linear drain
  • Adesilex P10 White Mortar
  • 4 to 1 Mud Bed Mix
  • Planitop 330 Fast
  • Mapelastic CI

Creativity and attention to detail characterizes Artisan Tile

Sometimes, good things can come from bad beginnings. By his own admission, Michael Moreno, the owner of Artisan Tile, was a “horrible helper” when he started out in 1987 in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he was employed for a husband/wife tile setting team. Eventually this couple went out on their own, hired Moreno, and over a period of 14 years, taught him everything he knows today. 

“I was still a bad helper,” he said. “I’m unsure if they felt sorry for me or if they saw something in me. I would like to think the latter. They were and still are an incredibly artistic team that started me from scratch.”

Michael Moreno, Artisan Tile owner (left), with his son, Michael Jr.,

Michael Moreno, Artisan Tile owner (left), with his son, Michael Jr., who recently moved and works for a tile company in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Moreno was 18 when he started working with them, and was their first employee, so he watched their outfit grow into a premier high-end company. In 2002, he left their employ, and started working for a one-man show out of Lompoc, Calif. But after two years, he was dissatisfied by the lack of learning anything.

“I was spinning my wheels, with no path forward,” he said. 

Though he never felt “good enough” to go out on his own, his two years with the Lompoc company made him feel that he was “going backwards. 

“That’s when getting my license ‘clicked’,” he explained. “It was like, 1+1=2. It was that simple and that jarring. It was like I woke up. This was unequivocally my path! Once that had entered my head there was no going back.”

Moreno got his license in 2005. “With no business sense, and a little skill, I put my head down and charged forward,” he said. “I’ve made all the common mistakes you can make when transitioning from being an employee to having employees. But I was learning and still moving forward hard.”

This 200-sq.-ft. project of round Saltillo was planned, and in great detail.

This 200-sq.-ft. project of round Saltillo was planned, and in great detail.

In 2008, he had six employees and spent most of his time on estimates. The recession was not kind to him, and his company fell apart. “But I did not give up, though it was one of the hardest personal struggles I’ve been through. I kept my license current and by 2010/11, I was back in the mix.” 

Today, he owns Artisan Tile in Lompoc, Calif., that gets 90% of its business – mostly residential – from referrals, without a website! Why? He stands out from the crowd due to his attention to detail and a certain artistic flair that stems from the artistry and precision he learned when working for the tile setter duo. 

“I was taught the trade by an artist couple, and their emphasis on meticulous details and creativity has stayed with me to this day,” he said. “I will always be far from perfect but the joy from that challenge of trying to be so strikes new on every single job I do. There are guidelines and proper methods, but there are few limits to the artistry of installation itself. I love to tile.”

This spontaneous, unplanned Saltillo corner sun was just fun to do, Moreno said.

This spontaneous, unplanned Saltillo corner sun was just fun to do, Moreno said.

Moreno has been a NTCA member for only a year, which he joined to bring himself up to date with proper installation methods and materials. Though he is still feeling out the ultimate benefits of the association for his business, he said he has “found great value in having access to a variety of tested methods, materials and professionals through the NTCA. What I do take away from it is knowledge and a community that wants to bring this age-old trade into the future with informed and educated installers.

“My greatest satisfaction is solving problems, and the finished product,” he concluded. “I thoroughly enjoy the challenges of the intricate and often monotonous details that make my work stand above my competition.”

This shower featured blue encaustic tile with 3”x 6” subway tile.

This shower featured blue encaustic tile with 3”x 6” subway tile.

This shower featured blue encaustic tile with 3”x 6” subway tile.

Coming to the 30th edition of Coverings

Coming soon to the Orange County Convention Center is the 30th edition of Coverings! That’s right, this year Coverings ’19 returns to Orlando bigger and better than ever. It’s your chance to prepare and take advantage of the astounding and abundant opportunities for education, inspiration and networking that make up the heart of the Coverings expo. 

To get ready and view an overview and floor plan of the show floor, schedule of events and Conference Session, awards and other aspects of the show, go to

This issue gives you a sampling of upcoming events planned by Coverings show owners – Ceramics of Italy, Tile of Spain, Tile Council of North America, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, and the National Tile Contractors Association. Take a look at highlighted educational sessions and demos pertinent to your visit as well as lists of exhibitors who have the products that you seek.

While you’re searching for products, read this issue’s Tech Talk section, which surveys tile contractors for the tools most important to their businesses. It might give you some ideas of items to search for at Coverings, to improve your comfort, production speed, precision or overall efficiency.

Installers weigh in again in our Business Tip, with information of how THEY navigate the Coverings show. If you’ve never attended – and even if you’re a regular – you can pick up some pointers about making the most of the experience and arranging your time to mine the show for inspiration gold! Becky Serbin’s NTCA University Update also gives you some tips for planning your conference strategy in Orlando.

Contractors, be sure to read the NTCA section and the list of demonstrations planned for the TCNA Installation Demonstration stage, including a visit to the new Installation & Design Experience. Every year NTCA works to develop a fuller, richer and more educational experience for its members and visiting contractors and installers at the show and this year is no exception, with education, demos, tours, installed vignettes illustrating the collaboration between designers and qualified labor, refreshments, networking opportunities and even the chance to win prizes all on the roster. Booth #3538 is your go-to location for all things installation, with a satellite NTCA desk in booth #3219 staffed with representatives to answer your questions about membership and the association.

I always enjoy feedback on the show and what you found valuable, so please drop me a line at [email protected] and share your thoughts! Looking forward to seeing you in Orlando!

God bless!

[email protected]

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